Construction Projects Can Uncover History And A Web Of Laws

From the grind of the steel mills to the battlefields of Gettysburg and the echo of Liberty Bell, Pennsylvania’s contributions to American history are among the most significant of any state in the country. Although history has faded over the years, the construction industry is often the first to rediscover our past in extraordinary ways.

A recent uncovering of hundreds of cannonballs at a construction site in Pittsburgh raises questions for architects and contractors alike. What happens when historical items are discovered at a construction site? The realm of possibilities and the laws surrounding historic preservation are sometimes as complex as history itself.

Culture meets economy

New construction is often an economic boon to a local economy. However, the government recognizes society’s interest in protecting places of historical or cultural significance. Pennsylvania has more than 3,000 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including 230 in Allegheny County, among the most of any area in the state.

Working on a property that is discovered to have historical interest could result in tight restrictions on what an architect or a contractor can do during demolition, construction or renovation. These rules often cause a project to go over budget or past a deadline. How can construction companies protect their business interest in a site?

Protecting the construction business

A construction project involves many people’s interest in both property and contracts. Architects and construction companies can hire a local law firm to best look out for their interest and investment in a project.

The federal government has sought out historical property for more than 100 years through the Antiquities Act, which gives the President and the Department of the Interior relatively broad powers to protect the land.

But, when considering history, it is sometimes best to look into the future. President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order calling for a review of the power of the Antiquities Act by the Department of the Interior. Also called into question is how current land is used by the federal government, which could result in a large-scale sell-off of property.

A balancing act

When the past becomes a present issue for an architect or contractor on a job site, a construction law firm can help balance the needs of history and economy with a business.

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